A Change in the Weather: Conservation as the Catch-Cry (1980–90)
By the end of the 1980s the influence of environmentalism had significantly challenged climate optimism so that ideas on the future management of Australia’s arid rangelands had forged into an alliance of formerly opposed groups—primary producers and environmentalists. To ensure a future for the land, and thereby a future for the industry of pastoralism, the problems of degradation, during this entrenched dry cycle, had to be tackled through a political alliance that attracted government funding on a national basis. In the mid-1980s public concern about species loss, erosion and land degradation had escalated. Where water was seen as a transformative device of the “frontier” at the beginning of twentieth century, near to its end, environmentalism was the mechanism that effected changes in rural management. The view of farmers had evolved along with the impact of environmentalism to the point where, in the early 1990s, one agricultural analyst could remark: “Most farmers are conservationists. They know their future depends on their being so.” The climate optimism evident at the beginning of the 1980s due to the long run of good seasons in the 1950s and in the early to mid-1970s had given way to a broader view of the environment and the impact of climate by decade end.